This book is dedicated to all victims of domestic violence. Never give up, there is always a way out, and never hesitate to ask for help.
First of all I want to thank my brilliant, and great American editor, Lee Ann, for all the hard work she put into the realization of my book.
I’d like to thank my husband, Gerard, for his endless patience and love.
And I’d like to thank all my readers as well because you are my inspiration to keep writing.
Her whole life, Susan’s been haunted by bloody nightmares. But Susan is about to find out the irrefutable truth about her nightmares, how they reflect her real life. Pretty soon, she discovers her life is all lies.
In search for the truth, she has to face her own nightmares that are rapidly taking over her reality.
Dreams will haunt you until there’s no place left to hide.
~ Blackout ~
A chainsaw cut through the wooden door like it was made of cardboard. The roaring sound scared Susan to death. She threw the blankets off; her eyes were open wide. A man clad in an orange prison overall stepped through the smoky remains of the door. His face was hidden behind an ice hockey helmet.
Susan’s heart thumped like a wild horse in her chest. Electrified, she gazed at the creep from Hell as he stepped closer to her with his chainsaw. Then she finally went into motion to save herself from the maniac and she jumped out of bed. Her hands banged against the wall. But these weren’t paper walls. She reached out to the window when the perp lashed out with his tool. The sharp chains of the saw cut her shoulder. The pain burned down through her as he pressed the saw deeper into her skin, cutting through flesh and bones. Blood splattered everywhere. The unbearable pain took her breath while she panted heavily, facing the wall. In the background, the man busted out in laughter.
Susan slipped down against the wall and left a bloody trail. With a deadly lust for Halloween, he yelled, “Trick or treat!” and turned her over after he dropped the chainsaw. Since she didn’t respond to his liking, he used her bloody arm to slap her in the face until she weakly opened her eyes. It’d be only a matter of minutes before she’d pass out into oblivion—her only savior. Clearly satisfied, he took off his helmet and carelessly threw her bloodied arm over his shoulder to a barking dog that entered the room.
“So, we meet again, Peggy Sue!” he said in a hollow voice and came closer to her. Susan stared at his mutilated face, partly covered with scars and missing an eye. A mean grin appeared on his face and then he pressed a wet kiss on her cheek.
In one go, Susan pushed the blankets off her. Beads of sweat covered her body. Her hands quivered as she turned on the light. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her ears still buzzed, and her heart pounded like a rabid dog in her chest. She knew the only way to ease her tortured nerves was to meditate like Aunt Gina taught her. With her eyes closed, she concentrated on her breathing.
“Breathe in, wait a few seconds, then release your breath through the mouth,” she whispered to herself and filled her head with happy thoughts. Cotton candy, sweet popcorn, the park, chirping birds, the ocean, the beach, and Xander’s smiling face. A serene calmness went through her. She opened her eyes and used the bedsheets to dry up her sweat. The next thing on her list was to jot down the nightmare before it went into oblivion.
“One day, you and I will find the cause of your nightmares, so you’ll get rid of them once and for all,” Aunt Gina promised a few weeks ago. She gave her a hardcover notebook, decorated with a shimmering striped cover that read, “With a Sparkle in Her Eye.”
Susan opened a new page to write about her nightmare. She dropped her pen when a scream reached her eardrums. Mom is in trouble!
Since she only wore her panties, she pulled her striped sweater from the sagging office chair. With the shirt partly pulled over her head, she rushed into the parents’ master bedroom across from her. Her heart missed a beat when she set her eyes on Daddy; he was trying to strangle Mom!
Susan’s fists balled up and she yelled at him. She glared at the strange look on his face while his wrinkled fingers were wrapped around Mom’s neck before panic kicked in. Even in distress, Susan had learned not to lift a finger against her parents. Instead, she hammered her fists against the wall. All the while Susan yelled at him to let go of her mother.
Her knuckles scraped the tattered, yellowish wallpaper, painting it with bloody red stripes while she banged the wall in a fast, monotonous way. She wasn’t aware of the pain in her hands, and it took seconds before Papa came back to his senses. He gazed at Mama with his jaw dropped and lowered his arms. With a bewildered look on his face, he stepped backward and gawked at Susan as though he’d seen a ghost.
Susan felt a snake down in her belly, crawling its way upward to her chest where it exploded into a thousand pieces. Bitter stomach acid reached her mouth. Susan grimaced and swallowed it back in. She longed for a glass of milk to get rid of the bitter taste. But instead, she sat down next to her mother and put her arm around Mom’s trembling shoulders. Then she became aware of her sore knuckles. She dropped her hands in her lap, hiding her bloody knuckles from Mom and Dad, biting her lower lip.
“I don’t know what—”
“You tried to kill her!” Susan said, cutting Daddy short. Her father exhaled and squatted down on his side of the bed and hid his face behind his fingers.
“Mom? It’s OK. You’re safe now. Would you like some water?”
“I will get some water for Mom. Will you leave her alone?” Susan asked. Since Daddy didn’t respond, Susan stayed until she realized he no longer posed a threat when he cried softly.
Susan left the master bedroom’s door open and went downstairs. In the kitchen, she turned on the light and carefully washed her hands under the cold filtered water tap. She rinsed her mouth and used paper towels to dry her hands. Her glance slid down to the black-and-white tabby, Lucky, lying on his usual spot on the windowsill. Lucky looked up when Susan came near. Patting his head calmed her down. She was glad she’d stayed with her parents instead of going to her one-bedroom apartment about two miles away. It belonged to Aunt Gina, who bought it during the economic recession of 2006. Up until now, eighteen-year-old Susan thought she was ready for the world, but each time life gave her lemons, and each time it was hard to shake it off. Her eyes darted up to the ceiling. She imagined her parents in the master bedroom as if she had x-ray vision. Then she cast a last look at Lucky and took a bottle of spring water from the fridge.
Back in the bedroom, Daddy sat next to Momma. Susan cleared her throat and handed the bottled spring water to her mother.
“It’s for the best if you sleep in separate rooms,” Susan suggested.
Her mother took a sip from the bottle with quivering hands. It became awkwardly quiet until her mother finally said, “I’ll sleep in Mark’s room.”
Susan nodded. Mark was Susan’s older brother, who moved out a few years ago to live with his girlfriend and two growing teenagers.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into me,” Daddy said.
“You had a blackout,” Susan noted. “Probably caused by drug abuse. Dad, you take way too much Xanax, like it’s candy! Xanax is no candy, I tell you, dammit!”
Her father covered his ears, facing the worn-out carpet under his feet. Susan gave up. It was no use. He’d never admit he was addicted to Xanax.
“A blackout,” he whispered.
Susan pinched her lips and narrowed her eyes.
~ Coffee ~
After what happened, Susan couldn’t fall asleep. Each time she dozed off, she pictured Dad strangling Mom with a terrifying look on his face. She sat straight up in bed. Her hand reached out to the desk lamp that was on a nightstand next to the bed and suppressed a yawn. She stood and scanned the room for her cell phone. Ah, there it is, on the desktop of my hardwood writing desk I got for my eleventh birthday. In an almost tender gesture, she tapped the desktop and took a seat in the battered office chair. She turned on her Windows phone and waited for an Internet connection.
Almost two years ago, she’d got the cell phone for the holidays and she thought back then it’d make her the cool kid in school. But she discovered the joke was on her. No one at high school had a Windows phone. School’s stupid. Most kids are spoiled brats anyway. Sure, she complained about it to her parents and hoped they’d support her by giving her a Samsung or an iPhone instead. But no. Her parents didn’t have the money, and her mother made clear she couldn’t trade it for a different phone. Besides, she’d gotten it from her grandfather, who passed away on February 25, 2016. God rest his soul.
She sighed and opened the Globe website on her phone. The first article was about a new judge who was sworn in, even though he’d sexually harassed women in college. With a sour face, she skipped the section. On the sports page, the Red Sox opened the season with a 5–3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park. Baseball was one sport she liked, along with figure skating. She felt good about the Red Sox’s win.
Then she pouted and put her cell phone on the desktop. The article reminded her she had to support her eight-year-old cousin, Dave, who played in the Little League baseball competition. It meant she’d spend this whole afternoon with Uncle George and Aunt Linda, who shouted during the game, chewing on cold hot dogs, talking excitedly with their mouths full, the mustard dripping from their chins and in Uncle George’s case, it’d stick to his beard. And the worst part was that he’d press a kiss on her cheek after the game. A sticky kiss on my cheek. Then sleep overpowered her. The time on her cell displayed 6:00 a.m.
An icy wind cried around Redrock—a small, seaside, suburban residential and tourist town in Massachusetts, located at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. Each summer, you stumble onto hikers and other tourist day-trippers who loved to see the red wooden houses and pay a visit to Redrock’s harbor before they moved onto one of the five beaches Redrock has.
Susan shuddered all over her body when the wind cut through her clothes and virtually took her breath. She pulled her leather jacket closer to her body. Seawater slammed against the dock of the bay, whipping up the docked fishing boats. She squinted at the foamy waves. No one else dared to show their face in this stormy weather. What she was doing out here was beyond her. It was not because her father had docked his vessel. He’d sold it many years ago to pay the bills. She still recalled his face of regret when he sold the boat to some stranger. As she strolled away from the harbor, a gust of wind pushed in her back.
Susan decided to head to the antique shop run by her parents, where she could shelter from the stormy weather. When the shop came into sight, she had to hold onto a lamppost to keep her balance. Her eyes narrowed as she faced the wooden signboard above her head. It carried her family name and rocked wildly in the wind with a creepy, sneering sound, and for a moment, she feared it’d break loose. Then she gazed at the sparingly lit store window. Inside was a mannequin with a blonde wig, dressed in a historical blue dress from the 1700s—based on her mom’s handwritten cardboard around its neck. Was it merely her imagination? Or did the doll stare back at her in a mocking way? Its lifeless eyes sparkled strangely in the dimmed light of the shop. She avoided the mannequin’s staring eyes. Susan leaned her back against the store window before she tried to get home. It was only a few blocks away.
The streetlamps flickered. A gust of wind threw a garbage can over the street with a loud noise. She looked over her shoulder. The road lacked markings and sidewalks while the garbage can crashed against a house, its contents raining down like a hailstorm. At the same time, all the lights went out.
Did the wind call my name? No, that’s impossible. Then a soaking wet, bony hand touched her face. A foul, rotten smell reached her nostrils. Then the lights came back on and she stared into the empty eye sockets of a skull wearing seaweed as a wig.
“I finally found you, Peggy Sue!” it said in a thunderous, threatening voice.
Susan woke up screaming. It took a while before she realized she’d had a bad dream. Tremors went through her body. She wiped the sweat from her face and glanced up because of a murmur coming from the stairway.
A deep sigh of relief escaped her when she opened her door a crack and discovered her mother walking down the stairs. Susan softly closed the door and decided to get dressed. After she put her cell in the pocket of her skinny black jeans, she went downstairs and stepped into the kitchen. Mother was about to make some coffee in her pink bathrobe and smiled when she noticed Susan.
In stark contrast to her mother, Susan never wore colorful clothing. The striped sweater—white and red—she wore now was the only exception to the rule. Her classmates from Redrock High looked down on her because she didn’t fit in. They were all dressed in designer clothes like it was some sort of uniform, along with expensive sneakers. Her parents didn’t have a shitload of money, and she didn’t want to spend the few bucks she had on clothes.
Besides, she didn’t like these popular bitches whose looks were their only concern. They behaved like obsessed lapdogs when a guy came along, begging for attention. Please, look at me. Don’t you think I’m pretty? Susan thought with a high-pitched voice in her head. If you’re growing up with two older brothers, and one of them is a member of a local motorcycle gang, you’d know better than to act like a mindless brat begging for attention. Once upon a time, she’d opened her brother’s bedroom door and caught him with his pants down while holding one of her dresses onto his crotch. Since then, she had stopped wearing skirts and dresses, or colorful clothes. She had to hide her clothes to prevent smelly, snaillike spurs, though she never told her mother about it.
“Would you like some coffee?” her mother asked kindly.
Susan nodded in response and waited until she poured her a cup.
“You know, Mom,” Susan said, holding the cup between her hands, “Dad needs to go see a doctor and talk about his blackout. It isn’t healthy.”
Mommy ran a hand through Susan’s long, dark hair, and faintly smiled. “You’re sweet,” she said, and pressed a kiss on Susan’s forehead.